October 28th, 2015

Kim Mickelsen

The Future of Computers is Wearable

Wearable usage will grow by nearly 60% this year. That’s an impressive number considering that just a couple short years ago the term “wearable” was an overhyped buzzword with little practical applications outside of the Fitbit products. Google glasses were downright weird (personal opinion) and few of us had the interest (or guts) to walk around in them. Read More

October 26th, 2015


What’s the Newest in Marketing to Emotions?

It’s interesting to me that the words “emotion”, “marketing” and “customers” are finding themselves together in what seems to be increased frequency over the past few months.

Since August, just a few of the publications that speak of emotions as a powerful force for binding brands and customers/consumers include Entrepreneur (8/7/15), iMedia Connection (8/27/15) and Harvard Business Review (November 2015).*

This is just a sampling of publications recently featuring articles on the topic of marketing to emotion(s).

Do you wonder why this is a topic that seems to be building in popularity – AGAIN?

Developing marketing communications that engage the target audience emotionally is not new.  Actually, wasn’t that the point of the very earliest of advertising?

Arguably, we could go back even before that very bright star in the East that lit the way for Kings and Shepherds alike.

The emotion: HOPE.  I can be saved!

With rapidly growing mass media in the 20th Century, marketers angled at the emotional level.

For example, Coca Cola promised “exhilaration” and the Winton Motor Carriage Company dangled more carefree transportation, enabling buyers to dispense with the anxiety of caring for a horse….

Coke-First-Adauto ad


And if there ever was a marketer who nailed it on emotions, what about Hallmark?  Who rivals Hallmark’s ability to deliver movies that send emotions into overdrive?

Hallmark even published a book in 2001, Emotion Marketing – the HALLMARK Way of Winning Customers for Life.

So in 2015, how do emotions and marketing come together again in such great frequency?  Is it the exponential growth of new media options – ways to connect with your audience faster, and more individually and personally, than ever before?

And, by the way, this question is not only for the consumer market.  What relationship exists between marketing and emotions in the B2B world?  What are the opportunities?

As the HBR article urges – “given the enormous opportunity to create new value, companies should pursue emotional connections as a science—and a strategy.”

Indeed, and I might add: foster emotional connections with authenticity.

*The articles mentioned can be accessed through these links:

September 10th, 2015

Robin Donovan

Jared Fogle, You Didn’t Just Let Subway Down

Subway was very smart. When they realized that a kind of nerdy, overweight college kid used their food to lose weight, they made him their brand ambassador. Jared Fogle spoke for the people, to the people; and he made Subway into a healthy alternative.

It doesn’t get better than that for a brand. A real-life, testimonial that elevated their brand and made millions for them – and they didn’t really have to try.

We were all excited and encouraged by Jared’s success. If he could do it – so could we! He was a shining example to many.

Jared’s recent imprisonment for sexually-related criminal behavior of various kinds was a bit of a black eye on the clean-cut Subway spokesperson, and indirectly on the Subway brand. Wow, no one saw that coming! From recent accounts, Subway’s not handling it all that well. Although Jared’s behavior is clearly not a direct reflection on the brand, a little more concern from Subway execs – who seem to be brushing it off like yesterday’s lint – might be in order.

The really sad thing here – aside from the poor families victimized by Fogle – is the damage done to all the other brand ambassadors. Will any of them ever really be trusted from this time forward? I think you know I’m talking to you, Jake, from State Farm!

September 8th, 2015


Building Brand Loyalty – No Longer about “Keeping up with the Joneses”

Are the Joneses feeling overlooked these days?


The 2nd-quarter issue of our newsletter, THINKING, leads off with this article: Great Expectations – Understanding the Consumer’s Mindset in Order to Generate Brand Loyalty.


I’ve been in the industry longer than I care to admit and long enough to appreciate a shift in who drives the brand relationship. Taking a moment to reflect on the past has two purposes:

  • For the sake of comparison.
  • To dislodge a 1980-something concept of building brand loyalty, if any still try to rely on it.

And speaking of twos, these lines from the article in particular leapt out at me:

  • “Where marketing was previously about mass media channels, we must now think of everything as a channel.”
  • “More important than ever-changing channels and mediums is the mindset of the consumer.”

Recalling efforts to build brand loyalty earlier in my career, marketing was about mass media channels and much more.  Positioning reigned, and mass media was kind of all there was. We worked diligently to develop affinity for brands that would enable consumers to “fit in” with people they admired. The effort was probably more about creating loyalty to brands that actually had our consumers feeling a few steps ahead of the Joneses, rather than just keeping up.

MarketingProfs issued an article earlier this year that said it succinctly: “The segmentation methods of yesteryear (demographic, geographic and psychographic) created a language about customers that was rooted in brand value—not personal value.”

Where building brand loyalty could be achieved in the past by enabling consumers to feel part of THE crowd, it’s now engagement at a much more personal level. This takes understanding and connecting with consumers at the “mindset” level.

Read Great Expectations for insight on “Six Integrated Mindsets”.  I hope these ideas are helpful starting points as you approach loyalty building strategies in the months ahead.

July 26th, 2015


The Heartbeat of Innovation -

Do you feel that pulse?!

It may be the bias of my passion for the marketing and advertising business that drives me to enthuse about the innovation – or at least the potential to innovate – that is at the heart of it.


New product development, restaging a dated product, generating brilliant and breakthrough creative, discovering new markets, and so many more opportunities to innovate: the possibility for building something truly novel is a rush, isn’t it?


A recent Forbes article about Lexus developing the prototype of a Hoverboard caught my innovation-loving attention.  And it prompted some questions:

  • How good are organizations really in their ability to innovate?
  • What innovations that could be solutions to serious problems might be gathering dust in organizations across the country? Around the world?

The Lexus Hoverboard: this is a product concept that grabs the imagination, doesn’t it?


From the Jetsons to Back to the Future, the concept may not be new, but Lexus has a prototype.  That seems pretty gutsy.  How many organizations will invest the resources and take the risk to develop a product that is so “out there”?


Forbes quoted Lexus EVP, Mark Templin, reflecting on the culture that underlies this commitment to innovate:

“At Lexus, we constantly challenge ourselves and our partners to push the boundaries of what is possible. That determination, combined with our passion and expertise for design and innovation, is what led us to take on the Hoverboard project. It’s the perfect example of the amazing things that can be achieved when you combine technology, design and imagination.”


These are words of inspiration… “Push the boundaries”…“Passion”…”Combine Technology Design and Imagination”…and it’s my sense anyway that we see and hear them a lot.


It may be silly to ask how many companies express words like these and then also put them into action.  How many Hoverboard prototypes do you see?


One answer may be in a survey The Center for Creative Leadership conducted with its 500-client panel in 2014 about the need they see for innovation and their ability to deliver it:

  • 94% of respondents said innovation is a key driver of success.
  • Only 14% felt confident about the ability of their organization to drive innovation effectively.

Also of interest, the Association for Talent Development recently published an article, Stuck in the Middle: Why Innovation Dies and What to Do About It.  If creativity might be getting stuck in your organization, look at some of the ideas it offers for letting innovation break free.

July 8th, 2015

Robin Donovan

Dear Facebook

I would like to ask you for a favor.

I use Facebook for business, for personal connections and for book promotion. I used to look forward to checking out my News Feed for all the interesting, entertaining and sometimes even exciting posts. Now I approach with trepidation. There are things I see that turn my blood cold. Some of these things have a major, negative impact on my state of mind, and I can ill afford to have that happen. Call me a wimp if you want – but I know for a fact that I am not alone in this perception.

Let me give you some examples. For me, the single worst thing that occurs with a great deal of frequency is when folks post stories and photos of atrocities to animals, and even to humans. I know they are meant to make me aware and propel me into action, but they horrify and upset me. In that state I’m rarely good to anyone – for anything. My second biggest concern is all the folks who post that their dog or cat has died. I am an empathetic person – this just kills me. Two nights ago, I saw tearjerking posts about four different French Bulldogs that had died. My heart goes out to them – too far out. These posts can ruin my whole mood. Does that seem selfish? Well, I have my own mood-ruining stuff – so I don’t need to share everyone else’s!

Second tier aggravations are political and religious posts. If I agree with you I don’t need to read it and if I don’t, you’re not going to convert me – so I don’t want to see it. I’ll never be impressed with your religious or political opinions because they are personal opinions that you are entitled to have, but I’m not obligated to be subjected to them.

Aside from these 4 major problems, there are a just a few more irritating areas: folks who drop vague hints in order to be drawn out – just say it for god sake, folks who oversell – I’m okay with a little light sell – but some of these folks need to give it a rest and lately I’ve been getting an influx of posts selling erotic reading material – I can’t reject those eroto-posterbaters fast enough. And what’s with those videos that you click on, only to be diverted to some hideous photo that shocks and horrifies? Please, no more photos of botched surgery in vivid color, I can only take so much!

After all of this, here’s the favor. Could you please start to compartmentalize some of these topics out of the mainstream News Feed? I would even pay money not to see the atrocities and the dead pet announcements.

I would never suggest that these folks don’t have the right of free speech – or posts – but they are impinging on my right not to be traumatized. There’s got to be a way, maybe a separate News Feed for Rainbow Bridge or a social consciousness news feed. Let’s face it, the whole political thing is only going to get worse in the next year.

If you compartmentalize these posts I can decide to engage when and if I choose, and my Facebook experience will improve exponentially. How about it – can you help me out here?


June 14th, 2015


Your People – Your Brand

Recent skirmishes with the Customer Service departments of two different companies left me with these questions:

  • Why do I buy their products?
  • Don’t these companies know what such horrible customer service does to their brand image?

So much is written about “brand ambassadors”.  It’s not a new concept, of course…

Several years ago, I was a Regional Sales Director for a small company that grew and packaged specialty lettuces and greens.  At the core of the product line was a beautiful green known as “mâche” or lamb’s lettuce.  It’s very much a niche item, and the company’s marketing budget was tiny.  The Marketing Director asked us to extend the reach of her limited resources by supporting her efforts as “Brand Ambassadors” in our Regions.


There we were, an army of three Regional Directors, dispersed across the Lower 48, equipped with emerald green attire, a megaphone, pom-poms, batons and a one-man-marching-band assortment of instruments.  Well, I exaggerate a bit, but as Brand Ambassadors, we were INFORMED, and we carried THE BRAND MESSAGE fully in sync with positioning and strategy.


In contrast, the horrible customer service I experienced recently was (mis)served by two large, deeply resourced companies, one a medical device firm and the other a telecommunications/cable company.


The medical device firm boasts, “Our mission is to provide you with World Class Customer Service”. 

The first customer service representative I spoke with told me she was having replacement parts for our machine shipped “Now”, and we would see them 24 -28 hours later by UPS.  Nine days and at least a dozen customer service reps later, still no parts, but an email saying “… your job ticket is complete and therefore, closed”.   And further follow-up calls, where customer service representatives see no record of earlier calls, emails or job tickets.


Please help us if this is what “World Class Customer Service” has come to mean!!


The telecommunications/cable company sees itself as “a leading provider of integrated communications solutions, including local and long distance voice, data, high-speed Internet and entertainment services that keep (area) residential and business customers connected with each other and with the world.


Service has been intermittent for 7 days.  One day on the phone with customer service, I was rocketed around the world three times as various off-shore customer service representatives repeatedly transferred me to “someone who can help”.


Yes, I do feel connected with the world I guess.  So…mission accomplished?


Brand strategy HAS to integrate ALL customer engagement points successfully.  Does your Customer Service team put out a message – in words as well as in their service – that supports your brand’s position?


If there is a place for Brand Ambassadors, Customer Service is certainly it.  Insist that the right people are on staff and expertly trained to support your brand’s strategy, position and messaging.


Your brand’s future may depend on it.


June 4th, 2015

Robin Donovan

Epic Facebook Fail

Facebook is a venue for networking, for keeping up with friends and family, for reaching out and expanding your horizons, and therein lies the danger.

Since my book was released in late 2011, I have had the opportunity and privilege to connect with authors from all over. These folks have expanded my horizons in so many more ways than I could ever have imagined. On a daily basis they teach me, make me laugh and make me think. I don’t even mind if they try to sell me one of their books – though I’d prefer a soft sell to some of the more in-your-face promotions. Having said all of this, I do have one major complaint.

When I receive an invitation to connect with someone I don’t know – I just naturally assume they’re an author. On several occasions I have been sadly mistaken and have been subjected to the stalky advances of some sniveling creep. Here’s the one I received this morning:

Hello,I am Kenneth, i love your good looking,How I wish words could express the thoughts that I have towards you. If I should say I love you then the greater percent of my words are still unexpressed.But of course, I must say something. my heart beats for you, and my heart longs for you.Can we have a conversation on. Thanks

Chat Conversation End

A number of my other Facebook “friends” have experienced a similar kind of stalky message, and we all find it unnerving. Perhaps this is why they do it – to make us feel unsettled.

I have a message for all of you Kenneths. Crawl back into your hidey-hole. You do not intimidate us – you sadden us. And to paraphrase a line from The Big Bang Theory, “you will never get a woman, that’s right, we all got together and took a vote!”

And as for everyone else – hell yes, I am going to de-friend him ASAP!


May 18th, 2015


B2B Companies: Did you Overlook a Lead Today?

Just a few months ago, we posed this question in our blog: “Should Business-to-Business Marketers Use Social Media?”.

Just as it was then, the answer now is “yes”, and a newly published B2B Social Media Report, adds further depth to the affirmative.  Brandwatch, a social media monitoring and analytics firm, just released a study exhibiting that B2B companies miss more than 70,000 sales opportunities every year.


This is from a survey of 200 of the top B2B companies in the US and the UK that also determined that nearly 25% of leading B2B brands do not have a social media account of any type.

So, 70,000 is an understatement.  The Brandwatch study points to 72,756 “mentions” in social media that reflected an “intent to purchase” with language such as:

  • “I’m thinking of buying…”
  • “I’m looking to buy….”
  • “I want to get…”


Through extensive research , Brandwatch learned that less than 1% of such mentions were engaged by companies that could fulfill the order.


The primary reason is that generally, B2B marketers have not been tuning in to conversations taking place through social channels.  The solution, however, is not solely in “being” in social media.


As our earlier post counseled, social media communications need to follow a disciplined strategic plan that integrates with and supports the overall marketing strategy.


The Brandwatch study reinforces this, cautioning that many B2B brands rely almost exclusively on Twitter and Facebook, when their customers are active on news sites, forums, blogs and even video and image sites.

Extraordinary opportunity is out there.  Has your organization given deep consideration to a strategic plan to capture it?

April 21st, 2015

Kim Mickelsen

It’s all about the widening mobile gap

The term “Mobilegeddon”  has being bandied around the last few days by the media to characterize the change Google is implementing today relative to mobile search results.

While Google’s algorithm change will certainly impact many companies that don’t have mobile-ready sites, it’s a logical move. And one Google has been pushing for the last two years. In reality, we’ve ALL been talking about the impact of mobile and this change may be the push needed to make sites more usable for consumers.

Last year was a tipping point — the first time that adults in the US spent more time on mobile devices than they did on PCs. And given our mobile world, that gap will widen this year and continue to grow.

The fact is, the majority of US consumers now regularly use a smartphone and nearly half of the population now uses a tablet. More than a third of consumers are using both smartphones and tablets. A full 7 percent of US adults are completely dependent on their smartphones for Internet access.

TimeSpentByMediaWhen you look at total daily media time per US consumer, it’s now at 12 hours and four minutes a day, up seven minutes from last year. With almost half of that spent on digital.

When you drill down by media, the growth rate of mobile is at 37% (CAGR). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come.

The fastest growing area on mobile is video consumption, with a staggering 91% CAGR. eMarketer’s data shows consumers are watching less TV, but spending more time with video in other places, most notably on their mobile devices.

Display and video will be the fastest-growing mobile ad formats as digital ad dollars quickly shift from desktop to mobile, and ad products improve. US mobile display and mobile video ad revenues are projected to grow at an astonishing CAGR of 96% and 73%, respectively, between 2013 and 2018.

This change won’t be without pain. Recent reports estimate that 40% of the leading sites failed Google’s mobile-friendly test and may be down-ranked in search. But it is good news for consumers, because it will push organizations to improve their sites to make them more usable on mobile devices.